Listening Hearts – It’s just one phrase in Stillwater’s mission statement, yet last week I found comfort in how profoundly true it was!

When I arrived Wednesday morning to visit my mom, I hadn’t been there in a few days. It’s cold and flu season and many healthcare sites have posted signs recommending one not visit if one is not well.  I didn’t want to take any chances visiting her (or her fellow residents) at the assisted living community since I hadn’t been feeling 100%.

At Mom’s apartment I found laundry, freshly done and ready to put away and her morning newspaper lay opened but unread. Her pendant was dangling from the towel rack. Grabbing it, I was met at the door by mom and the physical therapist. Her startled look was quickly replaced by a pleased smile.

As she rested in her chair, we conversed. I perused her mail, sifted through her read papers, assuring I gathered anything of importance. There were Christmas cards and letters she was happy to show me. some regular monthly notices. One required follow-up. I punched in the number provided only to be greeted by an automated menu that did not offer the option of speaking to a live person. With my frustration building, I put it aside, deciding to handle it from my house, where I kept my mom’s financial records.

Caregiving encompasses the individual medical and physical needs but also financial and property management. While the responsibilities can be divided among family members, there’s always overlap.

As Mom went to off to lunch, I’m heading out to run errands. The owner greets me with the usual “ How are you and your mom doing?” Feeling poorly, stressed, frustrated from the earlier attempt to handle business and overwhelmed with the holidays approaching, I began to speak. She calmly guides me to a chair and listens without interrupting as I pour out my concerns. She nods, gives an encouraging squeeze to my arm and tells me I’ll be in her thoughts and prayers. I thank her, and with a lighter heart, and take care of those errands.

Upon my return, I find mom participating in a group activity. Nearby is another Resident’s adult daughter whom I’ve come to know. With a little wave, I join her. After my inquiry, she starts telling me of her challenges. Listening hearts – I listen, acknowledge similar events and listen some more.  She apologizes for unburdening. I reassure her that I too had been experiencing a similar melt-down earlier in the day. She thanks me profusely.

I feel grateful to have given comfort after having received it earlier myself. We have built camaraderie of caring around the residents and their family members. It’s like a new neighborhood, where we may not always know their full names, but we greet each other, inquire about health and maintain an open attitude with listening hearts.

Vivian Helm